Eindhoven University of Technology: From an artificial uterus to a robot brain: new season of docuseries ‘Driven by Challenges’ kicks off

An artificial uterus that increases the chances of survival of extremely premature babies, an algorithm that can track down poachers to protect rainforests or a robot brain that allows drones to fly autonomously through greenhouses. Graas, who is currently working on the episodes, has been surprised several times already by the unique technologies she is visiting. Even though she is used to it, as a former member of Solar Team Eindhoven that won the World Solar Challenge in Australia in 2015.

“But technology is extremely broad,” she explains. “I used to think that engineering was mainly about smart people working on statistics in a basement. Engineering had a dull and boring image. But if this series proves anything, it is that engineering is anything but dull and boring. It is about creative and cool solutions to global issues. It is extremely interesting to see which direction everyone will take during or after the TU/e.”

It is no coincidence that the trailer of the docuseries was released on Earth Day. A day on which everyone thinks about the care we take for the earth. Many of the innovations in ‘Driven by Challenges’ make the earth a little better, for example in the field of sustainability.

In the first episode for example, Graas visits the beer brewery of Swinkels Family Brewers (Bavaria) in Lieshout, where student team Solid has a world premiere; the team manages to generate energy in a CO2-free and sustainable way by burning iron powder. And she visits Vertoro, a TU/e spin-off in Limburg that extracts liquid lignin from wood waste and uses it as a biofuel.

Because of the corona pandemic, filming has become a lot more challenging this year. Graas: “Yes, this year producer Daan Willekens, cameraman Florian Koch and I had to be very flexible. Fortunately, everyone is enthusiastic. We always find a way to film and at the same time stick to the corona rules. I’m glad we never filmed in the office, because that doesn’t say much. We creatively searched for filming locations. Can’t we go to a rain forest? Well, then we’ll film in Burgers’ Zoo.”

The first episode of the second season of ‘Driven by Challenges’ will appear on 6 May, followed by a new episode every two weeks. A physical premiere like last year, when a drive-in was organised, is not an option this time. Graas: “That is a pity, but we will reach the general public online anyway, so I expect a large number of interested viewers, just like during the first season.”